Adjacent to Norwood and Houghton, and divided neatly in half by the busy thoroughfare of Louis Botha Avenue, lies Orange Grove, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Johannesburg. Originally known as Lemoen Plaas, Afrikaans for Orange Farm, the suburb rose from humble beginnings to the busy hub it is today.
Fondly known as “Little Italy” from the 1950s to late 1980s, the majority of Orange Grove residents were primarily Italian immigrants. The suburb also attracted Portuguese, Jewish and Afrikaans cultures, adding a truly cosmopolitan flair to all restaurants, delis and cafes.
The centre of Orange Grove is Louis Botha Avenue, a main road that boasts many historical gems, and which initially served as the only single, direct road between the Johannesburg CBD and Pretoria.
In recent years, Louis Botha Avenue has been undergoing a major revival, with many of its old-fashioned restaurants getting a makeover while still paying tribute to their long histories.
If cooking is your thing and Italian food is on the menu, there’s no better place to get your ingredients than Super Sconto Italian Food Centre. Locals will tell you that it’s the biggest Italian retail store in South Africa, with a range that includes speciality tomatoes, meats and cheeses, pasta, olive oils, pastries and pickled vegetables. And if cooking isn’t your thing, the deli and coffee shop is open seven days a week.
The Radium Beerhall is one of the oldest pubs in Johannesburg and traces its history back to 1929, when it opened as a tearoom and a secret shebeen. Much of the pub’s original interior is still intact, lending the place a unique sort of charm, and the bartenders are well versed in the pub’s illustrious history. Every weekend local bands perform live jazz, blues and folk, and the mouth-watering Portuguese food is not to be missed.
Just up the road was another historical gem that dated back to the mid-1930s. The Doll House was an old-fashioned roadhouse that opened long before the M1 highway was built, at a time when Louis Botha Avenue was the main road linking Johannesburg and Pretoria. Sadly it closed its doors permanently in 2017.
When in the neighbourhood, a visit to HospiceWits Orange Grove’s iconic charity shop on Louis Botha Avenue, is obligatory. Expect everything from gramophones, mannequins and tea sets to furniture and vintage clothing. Don’t forget to bring along some previously unwanted items for donation.
If you like second-hand books then look no further than Kalahari Books, a haven for used, hard-to-find and generally out-of-print editions, with an estimated 70 000 titles. Attentive and friendly service and comfortable armchairs make this a welcoming place to spend some hours stocking up your library.
Across the road from Kalahari Books, you’ll find Tonino’s Portuguese Restaurant, another favourite with locals. A sit-down restaurant by day, with a popular bar at night, the menu has a wide range of options ranging from pub grub to appetising main meals – all at a good price. Pop by for a game of pool, karaoke on Wednesday nights, or listen to live music on Friday and Saturday nights.